Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CC League of California Newsletter on Low CCC Funding Levels

September 24, 2012

I want to call your attention to two articles that appeared over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times. The first, by Carla Rivera, looks at the challenges our system is having through this sustained period of disinvestment in California's higher education. The second discusses the Department of Labor grants awarded to college consortia in Los Angeles and the East Bay, and quotes Secretary of Labor and former Rio Hondo trustee Hilda Solis.

First, the background paragraph before my quote in Rivera's article can be taken out of context as endorsing some of the options that people have discussed. In a lengthy interview, I acknowledged that those options were part of the debate, but they are far from my preferential options. My quote that the vast majority of districts have to think about doing things differently, however, is spot on.

California's community colleges are currently operating on the lowest amount of state and local property tax revenue since before Proposition 13. On an inflation-adjusted basis,we are currently operating on 37% less than we were in 1978, receiving $128 per capita now compared to equivalent amount of $204 in 1978.

We frequently talk about funding per full-time equivalent student. That is indeed an important indicator. However, the per capita funding amount is equally important, as it tells us not about the quality of instruction and services we can provide, but rather the quantity, and of the breadth of the community college mission itself.

When we look at per capita funding, we're looking at how much money per person within California and within our districts is available. Then, we have to determine what the funding is sufficient to provide. Our mission in 2020 may be different than 1980, not just because of changes in student demand or community need, but the amount our taxpayers are willing to provide. Like it or not, what we do costs money.

Even when student fees, which were not charged before 1984, are included, funding per capita is lower than in 30 out of the last 34 years, at $138 per capita. And, it's not just Proposition 13. We're operating with 17% less per capita than we received in 1998--Pete Wilson's last year in office. We have lost significant ground, but have we really considered our model, our mission?

People like to immediately point to our smallest colleges as in the greatest financial trouble and worthy of being closed or consolidated. However, among our colleges in the greatest financial distress, we find significant fiscal threats among our largest and even the arguably "most efficient" midsized colleges.

As I said in the article, a majority of districts have serious strategic issues that need to be confronted--mission, finances, and student success. I don't have the solution, but if you're not having the courageous conversations to address these issues, you will find your institution on the wrong side of history and your students and communities will pay the price.

As the League, we will ensure that local governing boards and college leaders can determine the structure and mission that most fits the needs of their communities. Any "consolidation" that might occur would be led by the local community, and I can assure you there is no conversation in Sacramento calling for such. But, at the end of the day, we are operating on 37% less than 34 years ago, and I can't say we will regain ground as the state's population grows largely in line with the general fund.
Are you having courageous conversations within your district?

Finally, the article with quotes from Hilda Solis caught my eye. Solis, a long-time friend, made this comment in response to whether community colleges were connected to business leaders to ensure that the workforce training provided met the needs of students and the economy:
"That's a collaboration that hasn't really existed. We saw some instances but not often and not regularly. In the last decade community colleges have lost sight of that," she said. "We don’t just want them to get a certificate for the sake of getting a certificate. We want them to get a certificate that means something, that will put them in a good career path and land them a good job."
I think we can all agree upon the goal Secretary Solis lays out, but can we agree upon a solution to get us there?


Scott Lay
President and Chief Executive Officer
Orange Coast College '94

Source: Fiscal Profiles, California Postsecondary Education Commission (2011), Legislative Analyst's Office, Department of Finance

No comments:

Post a Comment